PG&E 'focused' on helping fire-ravaged areas rebuild amid mounting lawsuits

- Two new lawsuits have been filed against PG&E Co. in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming the utility's negligence is responsible for the devastating Northern California wildfires.

One case was filed this morning by three families in Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, who fled for their lives early on the morning of Oct. 9 and lost their homes.

"We lost everything," homeowner Nemesio Ruiz said at a news conference outside the San Francisco Superior Court courthouse today.

Another lawsuit was filed in the same court late Wednesday by a Santa Rosa husband and wife who were severely burned as they ran through the flames on foot and their nightclothes caught on fire.

Attorney Bill Robins said he believes the lawsuit by Ulla and Lars Tandrup of Santa Rosa is the first to have been filed on behalf of burn victims.

Lawyers in the two new lawsuits said the cases bring the total number filed against PG&E thus far in San Francisco and Sonoma County superior courts to at least 10. Most were filed in San Francisco.

Mary Alexander, a lawyer for the Redwood Valley families, said she expects more lawsuits to be filed and expects the state Judicial Council to assign all the cases to a single judge to promote judicial efficiency.

She said she believes the cases should be handled in San Francisco Superior Court because the city is the headquarters of PG&E Co. and its parent company PG&E Corp.

The lawsuits allege PG&E was negligent in failing to maintain and inspect its power lines adequately and failing to prune vegetation around the lines.

The danger of fire was reasonably foreseeable because of "the extended drought, high temperature, low humidity, tinder-like dryness of vegetation and windy conditions," the Ruiz lawsuit alleges.

In addition to negligence, the lawsuits include claims of emotional distress, creation of a nuisance, violation of state law and trespass by allegedly negligently caused fires.

PG&E spokesperson Ari Vanrenen said in a statement, "Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our customers and communities we serve. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by these devastating wildfires."

"We are aware that lawsuits have been filed. Beyond that, we're going to be focused on doing everything we can to help these communities rebuild and recover," Vanrenen said.

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